Illinois tourism office to open expand to China, Mexico

Illinois tourism officials are expanding their efforts in China and Mexico, hoping to attract more foreign visitors to the state.

The Illinois Office of Tourism plans to open an office in Mexico City by Nov. 1 and one in Beijing on Dec. 1, the Chicago Tribune reported. Three additional support offices in China are being planned in Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou.

Agency director Cory Jobe said about six to 10 people will work across the five offices on public relations, marketing and trade efforts for the state. He said they will work with travel agents, create new products and pitch travel stories to help educate Chinese and Mexican communities on what they can expect to see and do in Illinois.

"To be quite honest with you, there's only so much money to go around here for us to market around the world," Jobe said. "We have to be very strategic."

He said the agency has worked on paid media and smaller trade initiatives with both countries during the past few years and is opening the new offices to meet the growing demand from those markets.

"At the end of the day, it's all about dollars and cents, and it just made economic sense to expand at this time when those markets are growing to Illinois and to the United States," Jobe said. "When I looked at what our competitors were doing, we had to make it happen.

China is the top overseas market for Illinois, with about 235,000 visitors in 2016, which marked an increase of 41.5 percent a year before. Chinese visitors spent an average of $175.1 million in Illinois, generating about $13.1 million in state and local tax revenue.

About 195,000 people from Mexico visited the state in 2016, a 10 percent increase from 2015. They spent an average $116 million while in Illinois, generating about $8.7 million in state and local tax revenue.